Though three games remain on their 2013 schedule, the Washington NFL team’s season is officially over. With the team free-falling into the offseason at 3-10, the only place for Washington to go is even further down.
Head coach Mike Shanahan elected this week to bench Robert Griffin III for the rest of the season in favor of Kirk Cousins. Shanahan, citing injury protection as the basis for the decision, has officially given up on the season and apparently Griffin as well. Shanahan believes strong play by Cousins would improve his trade value and could help recoup some draft picks that were traded away to secure RGIII.
“If he lights it up, hey, maybe we can bring a first-round draft choice back to this organization,” Shanahan told ESPN 980 this past week. The maneuver is definitely a dicey one, but where does this leave Robert Griffin III? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: RGIII is still the quarterback of this team, although it doesn't really look like it at the moment. Yes, Griffin has played poorly during several stretches this year but so has the defense, the offensive line and his receivers. It was a bad season for everyone across the board in the Washington NFL organization, but only one of those players was coming off of major knee reconstruction. I'm willing to chalk up the 2013-2014 season as a mulligan for Griffin considering the obstacles he faced in trying to return to form. Going into next season, there's no doubt that he's still the starter. If Shanahan is removed this summer, which is more than likely to happen, the new coach will restate Griffin’s claim as the man going forward.
Green: I’m sorry, but I told everybody that this was going to happen going into the 2012 season. In an AFRO Faceoff published in January 2012 (http://www.afro.com/sections/sports/story.htm?storyid=73837), I wrote that Shanahan should have been fired then, based on his poor mismanagement of the team. We all knew Washington was going to have a chance to take Robert Griffin III in the draft, and I didn’t think Shanahan was the right person to develop a talent like Griffin. Shanahan was the same coach that traded away franchise quarterback Jason Campbell to acquire an aging Donovan McNabb. He then benched McNabb for longtime screw-up Rex Grossman, and then benched Grossman for backup John Beck. Fast forward to now and he’s benching one of the most dynamic players in the history of the league. But we all saw this coming, didn’t we? I hate to say it, but he ruined Griffin, and honestly I don’t think Griffin will ever fully recover from what has happened to him during the past 12 months.
You’re right, Riley: a new coach will come in and instantly start Griffin. But I’m not sure he will ever be the same player after what he went through under Shanahan’s administration. It’s in Washington best interest to see what Cousins can do because that may be their only bet in the future.
Riley: A healthy Griffin changed the outlook for the Washington franchise last year. While it's been a train wreck this year, fans and the franchise will never forget his magical rookie season. It's obvious this year that Griffin alone won't do enough to keep the team competitive in the NFC, so do you trade RGIII away or try to get some help around him? If you're smart, you do the latter rather than trying to trade a quarterback who has accomplished things for this organization that hadn’t been done in nearly 20 years.
Green: It's all about “what have you done for me lately?” As cold as it seems, that’s the reality facing Griffin and the Washington team at this moment. Everything is predicated off of Cousins’ play going forward. If he plays well, like Philadelphia's Nick Foles did in relief of Michael Vick, then there absolutely has to be some type of equal opportunity for both signal callers this summer. If he flops, then yes, that makes the decision easier to go back to Griffin. Just keep in mind that we may never see the Griffin of 2012 again.